A few months ago we purchased an outdoor table console base from the Arhaus Moving Sale. We really liked the style of the Bourdeaux console table that we found there, but the “reconstructed stone” (basically painted concrete) top was badly bowed and had several large chips in it. We decided to purchase just the base of the table because we figured that we could make a new top.
Once we put the console table base on the back porch with the new dining table we purchased at the same sale, it became obvious that our original plan to make a new top out of wood wouldn’t look good. It would simply be too many wood tones in a small space. We contemplated a few different options for a new table top and ultimately decided that a new concrete top would look best. So, we decided to make a concrete table top even though we had never worked with concrete before.
We did a ton of research and were intimidated by many of the videos and tutorials we watched. Eventually, we found a video by Michael Builds that made it seem like it might actually be possible to do. We followed the Michael Builds video very closely but left out the grout design and chipped edges. His video made the process seem much more manageable than many of the other videos we watched. We will likely use his recommended projects and techniques for our future concrete projects (like this tabletop fire pit we made).
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Making the table top
Once we had set up all of the supplies needed for this project (see the list below), we followed the steps outlined in the video to create our table top. The first thing we had to do was to determine the size of our table top. After we measured the existing base dimensions, we determined that we needed a 20” x 66” top.
Using a 4’ x 8’ melamine board, we cut out the pieces to make a mold to hold the concrete and screwed the pieces securely together. Once the mold was constructed, we used silicone caulk to seal all of the corners and edges to prevent the concrete from leaking out. Michael Builds recommends spraying foaming window cleaner on the silicone to help smooth it out. I wasn’t a fan of this method. I have done caulking a few times in the past and I think that having a cup of soapy water nearby to use to dip your finger in before smoothing the caulk is a more effective solution. Spraying foaming window cleaner on the caulk before smoothing prevented the caulk from adhering anywhere that the cleaner had touched. This actually made it harder to smooth out the silicone.
We left the silicone to set overnight. The next day we took the mold outside along with all of the other supplies. We sprayed WD-40 in the mold to act as a mold release. It was then time to mix up the concrete. Because our table top was rather large, we determined that we would need three 55lb bags of the Rapid Set concrete mix to make a table top that was 1.5 inches thick. As recommended, we mixed each bag separately and added the secret ingredient: Rapid Set Flow Control. We learned a few lessons about mixing concrete during this process (e.g. we messed up a few things).
Lesson #1: You need to mix the concrete as you pour it into the water.
For the first bag of concrete, we poured the entire bag of concrete into the water before beginning to mix. This resulted in there being a layer of concrete at the bottom of the bucket that did not get mixed with water. It was at least two inches thick and we didn’t realize it wasn’t mixed until we went to pour the bucket of concrete into the mold. It was at this point that we found the recommended bucket scraper extremely helpful. Thankfully, we ended up having enough concrete in the end, but because we were adding concrete dye to our mix, the topmost layer of our table (the first poured into the mold) is a bit darker than the other two layers.
Lesson #2: Make sure that your drill is fully charged before beginning.
Our drill with the attached grout mixing paddle died just as we began to mix the second of three bags of concrete. This likely contributed to the lack of thorough mixing mentioned above and definitely caused a lot of anxiety. Most importantly, it cost us a lot of time. The products we used are meant to set very quickly; that is part of the appeal. Unfortunately, the drill died at possibly the worst possible time. We had already poured the first bag of mixed concrete into the mold so there was no going back. Brian grabbed the back-up battery only to find it was also almost dead. We ended up trying to mix an entire bag of concrete partly by hand. As we were doing this, the first layer of concrete began to set. This left us with some pretty distinct lines between the different layers of concrete in our table top.
Once each bag of of concrete was mixed, we poured it into the mold. We tried to smooth out the final layer with a trowel and wood screed, but because of the aforementioned delays it had already begun to set and I was not able to get it as smooth as I would have hoped. Luckily, you flip the table top over when you take it out of the mold so the top is actually the bottom.
We were sure to keep the concrete cool for an hour after adding the last bag by spraying it with water. Once the hour was up, we removed it from the mold. It actually turned out better than we expected. There aren’t any bubbles, craters, cracks, or chips. The top of the table top turned out incredibly smooth. There are certainly color variations and you can see the different layers if you look closely at the sides, but it’s concrete. It isn’t supposed to be perfect.
Based on the recommendations in the Michael Builds video, we purchased quite a few products (in addition to basic wood shop tools) to help us with this project:
- Sheet of melamine
- Screws to build the mold
- Silicone caulk
- Foaming window cleaner or cup of soapy water
- 3 five-gallon plastic buckets (one for clean water, one for mixing the concrete, and one with water to clean your tools)
- Rapid Set Mortar Mix
- Clean water
- Liquid cement color
- Drill (with fully charged battery)
- Grout mixing paddle
- Rapid Set Flow Control
- Bucket scraper
- Wood board to act as smoothing screed
- 100- or 150-grit sandpaper
- Concrete sealer
Once we removed the table top from the mold, we spent some time sanding to make sure there weren’t any sharp edges. Because the original concrete top had bowed, Brian added an additional wood support to sit directly under the new table top. We set the table top directly on the base. For the time being, we decided not to directly attach the top to the base. The top is very heavy and the table is pushed up against the wall so it is unlikely to move.
Based on another Michael Builds video, we decided to use a clear, food-safe sealer for the table top. With that done, the table is ready to be used. I think it will be a great piece to have when entertaining.
We are really happy with the final product. I think we will definitely attempt more concrete projects in the future. Maybe something a bit smaller will go a bit more smoothly. If you are looking for more DIY furniture inspiration, you might want to check out my posts on updating a cedar chest or vintage vanity.
Have you ever attempted to make something out of concrete? Do you find this medium as intimidating as we did?
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